When South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman introduced Frank Martin as the Gamecocks' new men's basketball coach Tuesday afternoon, he began the press conference with eight simple words.
"It's a great day to be a Gamecock," Hyman said before repeating the phrase again.
And in danger of falling too early for the coach who won the press conference -- and Frank Martin most certainly, as expected, did that -- I have to agree with Mr. Hyman's sentiment.
See, I believe that Hyman believes that he just hired the absolute best coach he possibly could have hired when considering all the factors that go into the current rebuilding job that is South Carolina basketball.
And I have a hard time disagreeing with him.
When discussing the many credentials that Martin brings with him from his five years as head coach at Kansas State, the checklist Hyman rattled off sounded much like the list of requirements for the new coach that Hyman detailed just two weeks ago when he discussed the firing of Darrin Horn in the same room at Colonial Life Arena.
Recruiting. Not only does Martin bring the knowledge that he has to shut down the borders of South Carolina and the ability to do it, but he's also a big enough name and has enough connections to recruit coast to coast. He could even go international at times if history is any indication.
Hope. Hyman talked about the idea of keeping hope alive. If the reaction of Gamecock fans on message boards and social media is any indication, the hope has already been successfully restored and South Carolina fans seem excited about basketball again. Martin is a fiery competitor on the court but is as personable as they come in front of the mic. Gamecock fans already seem to be buying in.
Competitive success. Hyman's was of saying it was: "Credibility comes with competitive success." Martin gives the South Carolina program instant credibility with a 117-54 overall record, four trips to the NCAA tournament in five seasons and because of his personality, he has easily become one of the biggest names in coaching.
Academics. Make no mistake, Darrin Horn's teams had success in the classroom. But as Hyman detailed two weeks ago, success in the classroom and on the court are not mutually exclusive. Martin needed to have both and he does. Martin and his staff steered the Kansas State program from an 857 to a 960 APR score in his five years there. I am certain that fact wasn't lost on Hyman.
In the end, Hyman said he wanted a coach with integrity, a strong work ethic and intelligence, and if Martin's first press conference as South Carolina's head coach is any indication, you can put a check mark by all three of those requirements too.
He thanked all the right people. Took the high road on the reported rift between he and his former AD John Currie.
It's hard to imagine him not having a strong work ethic with his previous success and the passion he displays for his players and the game.
And if you listened to 30 seconds of the press conference, his intelligence isn't even a question.
That is to say, Martin had all the right answers.
Martin clarified comments from over the weekend when he admitted on CBS that he had helped out former students and players when they moved on from the Miami inner-city schools that he taught and coached at for 15 years.
"When those kids took the next step to get to college, they didn't have five dollars when they got to college," Martin said. "Our relationship was so strong that they had to come to myself or different administrators in the school building because we were their family. (Their relatives) depended on us to help them raise that child. ...
"I never paid a player in my life. Abiding by rules is something (I do). (Eric Hyman and Harris Pastides) have my word that surprises will never happen and rules will always be accepted."
Martin also responded to the idea that he may be too hard on his players and that his language on the sidelines is too harsh, saying that he truly realized he had to tone down the language when his four-year-old child scolded him after a game for using a bad word.
"It's not [about trying to] change who I am. It's evolve," Martin said. "This year I took a stance publicly. It was about my use of foul language on the sideline. There's no place for that. ... I'm not trying to change public perception for me. That made me understand that if my passion gets to a certain point, it will negatively impact my kids, the university and people that believe in me."
From talking about trying to connect with the community again and making former players feel welcome again -- two things that have been sorely lacking in Columbia for some time -- to emphasizing that he now works at THE University of South Carolina, Martin said all the right things to get South Carolina fans fired up (as Steve Spurrier would say) about Gamecock basketball again.
"When fans pay their dollars they earned to watch a game, there's nothing that upsets me more than when a team doesn't put it all on the line," Martin said. "Our guys will compete and play the game the right way. I have no wiggle room on that one. Our fans will enjoy our style of play and we will put 18,0000 people in this arena."
That's got to be music to the ears of fans who this season chose to keep their hard-earned money at home to show their lack of hope in the direction of Horn's program.
And when Frank Martin thinks of what the atmosphere at Colonial Life Arena can be, his mind goes back to what was another great day to be a Gamecock.
"I'll never forget the atmosphere when they beat [top-ranked] Kentucky in this building. I know it will happen. There's no doubt in my mind it will happen. It's just a matter of starting to play the game a certain way, and we will stick 18,000 in this building and make it the hardest arena in the country for anyone to play."
And that could lead to many more great days to be a Gamecock.
COLUMN: Great day to be a Gamecock
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